Fabtech 2021 Exhibitors Offer Systems for Small and Midsize Manufacturers

From welding and painting to machine tending, robotics vendors displayed several systems to help human workers with production.


Fabtech showcased a variety of robots for manufacturing.
As manufacturers struggle with skilled staffing shortages, exhibitors at Fabtech 2021 displayed robots for gripping delicate objects, painting, and other production processes.

One of the major themes at Fabtech 2021 in Chicago this week was the need for small-to-midsize companies to add automation to their operations. There is not enough skilled or unskilled labor to fill the demand. Large companies with varied, small-batch production face a similar dilemma of a lack of workers to meet production needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic did increase unemployment, and many people in the service industry have departed or changed jobs. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that “there are now half as many available workers for every open job across the country as there have been on average over the past 20 years,” reported Forbes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently said that the number of job openings has increased to 10.9 million.

In response, many industrial and collaborative robot makers are offering systems for welding and other industrial applications. Robotics 24/7 has already covered several welding robots, and here are other systems that captured attendee attention at Fabtech 2021:

AGT Robotics LayoutMaster

AGT Robotics' LayoutMaster is a full-color laser projection system designed to project all the information that an operator needs to accurately tack-weld connections on the beam or on other connections.

The LayoutMaster projects complete and comprehensive information, including 3D contours, holes, holes center, welding information, part numbers and other details.

Thus, an operator with limited training can align the connection with the projected line and tack weld it in place. Since the Layout Master fits on top of fitting and welding bays, it doesn’t take up any floor space, said the Trois-Rivières, Quebec-based company.

Applied Robotics FSG

Applied Robotics Inc.'s new Flexible Smart Gripper (FSG) is a fully electrically actuated gripper with flexible, soft-bodied fingers for handling objects of varying size, shape, and weight. The gripper comes in two-finger (FSG-2) and four-finger (FSG-4) configurations for cobot applications.

Schenectady, N.Y.-based Applied Robotics said FSG offers a Wi-Fi-enabled interface for precise and dependable handling of delicate objects. It also has FDA-compliant silicone fingers to grasp and rotate objects and conform in the actuating direction, while remaining rigid in the other degrees of freedom.


The FANUC P-40iA is the latest of the company's six-axis offerings. At Fabtech, the Rochester Hills, Mich.-based company displayed the robot equipped with the R-30iB Plus Mate controller to coordinate motion to reach all surfaces of the parts with paint.

Visitors also were able to try out the robot’s new  'Easy Teach' hand-guidance programming feature. The P-40iA is flexible enough to accommodate small lot sizes, new styles, and other modifications, said FANUC. It can handle a variety of painting needs for a large company or the smaller batch needs of small and midsized companies.

The robot features a variety of mounting positions, enabling companies to use it in small and narrow workspaces.

Kawasaki KJ155

Kawasaki KJ155

The KJ155 painting robot. Source: Kawasaki

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd.’s KJ155 explosion-proof paint robot features a 3R (roll, roll, roll) hollow wrist with inner diameter of 70 mm (2.75 in.) to accommodate hoses. It also has a slim and lightweight body with a wide motion range. Painting equipment can be mounted on the upper arm.

Show visitors were able to see the robot, equipped a Durr applicator, paint Kawasaki ATV rims.

The Japanese company’s pre-engineer deburring cell featured deburring and grinding of small parts using Kawasaki’s high-speed, low-payload RS007N. The six-axis robot has a 7 kg (15.4 lb.) payload and a 730 mm (28.7 in.) reach.

Waypoint AMRs

Waypoint Robotics Inc. displayed its autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), including the Vector 3D HD with Kingpin top module, EnZone wireless charging, and the newly released Vector – MM omni. The mobile manipulator addresses the need to move heavier objects around the factory floor without the need of a forklift, said the Nashua, N.H.-based company.

The Vector AMR features an industrial strength chassis, omnidirectional mobility, and compact design. It also has dual safety-rated lidar, which can be upgraded to 3D, as well as 300-lb. and 600-lb. capacity options. The EnZone wireless charging system enables Vector to charge itself.

The Vector – MM omni mobile manipulator is the result of a collaboration between the company and Productive Robotics, offering AMR flexibility combined with a flexible, seven-axis collaborative robot arm.

Workers can use this mobile platform to perform repetitive tasks such as machine tending, quality assurance sampling, material replenishment, and packaging so they can focus on tasks requiring higher-level skills.

Yaskawa MPX

Yaskawa’s high-speed, six-axis MPX-series robots are designed to create smooth, consistent finishes for a variety of painting and dispensing applications. The MPX robots an be installed close to workpieces for efficient use of floorspace.

Each model can be floor-, wall- or ceiling-mounted. These robots and the DX200-FM controller feature Factory Mutual (FM) approval for use in Class I, Division 1 hazardous environments. An intrinsically safe pendant is available as an option.

MPX1150 and slim-arm MPX1400 robots feature a small footprint and straight wrist with a 5 kg (11 lb.) payload, so they can mount a variety of spray guns and can be used in a small space.

The MPX1150 robot features a 727 mm (28.6 in.) horizontal reach, 1,290 mm (50.7 in.) vertical reach and ±0.02 mm (0.0007 in.) repeatability. The MPX1400 robot has a 1,256 mm (49.4 in.) horizontal reach, 1,852 mm (72.9 in.) vertical reach and ±0.1 mm (0.003 in.) repeatability.

The compact MPX1950’s design is ideal for painting small to medium-sized components, according to the company. The robot has a 7 kg (15.4 lb.) wrist payload facilitates for mounting an array of spray guns. The MPX1950 features a 1,450 mm (57 in.) horizontal reach, 2,730 mm (107.4 in.) vertical reach and ±0.15 mm (0.005 in.) repeatability.

Yaskawa Motoman MPX2600 painting robot with MOTOFEEDER.

About the Author

Phil Britt's avatar
Phil Britt
Britt owns S&P Enterprises and is a technology writer who lives in the greater Chicago area. In addition to Robotics 24/7, he has written for financial services and business publications, including magazines, newsletters, conference dailies, and Web sites.
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Fabtech showcased a variety of robots for manufacturing.

Robot Technologies